Patrick Chan figures to repeat at Worlds
The way Patrick Chan has been steamrolling the competition, hes expected this week to became the first man to repeat as world figure skating champion in six years.
The Canadian hasnt lost a competition in more than a year, and only once during that span has someone managed to get within double digits of him. He has quadruple jumps in both programs, and few skaters can match his ease and whimsy on the ice.
“I dont really think about the points very much,” Chan said. “I just wanted to see the difference of my skating last year to this year, thats the main focus. So at the end of worlds, I can watch the video of this year and see a big difference, a big improvement in the movement of the program compared to last year.”
Make no mistake, however, he wants another title in Nice, France.
No man has repeated as world champ since Stephane Lambiel in 2006, and Chan said seeing the same skater atop the podium might help revive interest in a sport thats in serious need of star power.
“Thats my biggest motivation,” he said. “Thats what weve been really looking for, someone familiar, someone (fans) can remember their name and remember how they skated, and really see the improvement they make every year.”
Though no one has beaten Chan recently, that doesnt mean hes unbeatable, American Jeremy Abbott said. The three-time U.S. champion is skating with newfound confidence this season, and he thinks he can make a run at Chan.
Like Chan, Abbott is one of the few who has managed to maintain the balance between the performance quality that makes figure skating so entertaining and the tough physical tricks the system now demands. He was masterful at the U.S. championships, landing an effortless quad in his free skate and performing with the joy and quiet elegance that comes when a skater lets the music wash over him and tell his body what to do.
“If I put down two of my best programs and Patrick puts down two of his best programs, I think that were in the same level,” Abbott said. “I feel really good physically, I feel good mentally, I still feel I have plenty of fight and competition left in me, and Im really actually excited to go to these world championships.”
Daisuke Takahashi, the Olympic bronze medalist and 2010 world champion, should also be in the mix, along with Javier Fernandez of Spain, the bronze medalist at the Grand Prix final, and European runner-up Artur Gachinski. Though Evgeni Plushenko has returned to competition in triumphant fashion, winning his seventh European title in January, he will not be at Nice after having knee surgery.
Ashley Wagner hopes to end the American womens longest medal drought since the entire U.S. team was killed in a plane crash on its way to the 1961 worlds.
Not since Kimmie Meissner and Sasha Cohen finished first and third in 2006 have the women won anything. But Wagner takes a two-event winning streak into the worlds, including a victory over two-time world champion Mao Asada at last months Four Continents.
“The results from Four Continents really speak for themselves,” said Wagner, whose win over Asada came two weeks after winning her first U.S. crown. “Its anyones game at this point, so I just need to put out the programs so that Ill be competitive.”
If theres ever a year for the American women, this is it.
This is the weakest womens field in a non-Olympic year in a long time. Neither Miki Ando nor Olympic champion Yu-na Kim, last years gold and silver medalists, will be at the worlds. The same for Russias top women, Adelina Sotnikova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva or Julia Lipnitskaia, all of whom are too young.
Defending bronze medalist Carolina Kostner won both the Grand Prix final and European championships, but consistency has never been her strong suit. Asada made the Grand Prix final for the first time since 2008 after winning at Rostelecom Cup, but did not compete after the sudden death of her mother.
“This year is definitely wide open,” Wagner said. “Its anyones game at this point, so I just need to put out the programs so that Ill be competitive.”
The worlds begin on Wednesday with the pairs short program and the short dance. The womens event begins on Thursday and the men on Friday.
In ice dance, the rivalry between defending champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will take center stage once again. The Americans beat Virtue and Moir, who are also their training partners and good friends, at the Grand Prix final, only to see the Canadians upstage them at Four Continents.
In pairs, Germanys Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will be favored to win their second straight title and fourth overall. Their biggest challenge will likely come from Russias Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who won the European title after Savchenko and Szolkowy were forced to withdraw because of her thigh injury.